Monday, February 27, 2006

Sandra Lee: First Lady?

Thanks to the loyal reader to sent me this tidbit:

Andrew Cuomo who two and a half years ago, suffered the slings and arrows (at least in the media) of being cuckolded in his thirteen-year marriage to Kerry Kennedy by the rich and handsome (and also very much married) Bruce Colley, has found happiness at last, they say, in person of Sandra Lee, the Food Network’s celebrity chef and host of “Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee.”


She took an apartment here in Manhattan fairly recently and occasionally has been seen in public (albeit quietly and only to perceptive, knowing eyes) with her new inamorata. Some say that this relationship, along with her ex-husband’s own activities outside the marriage, is what encouraged her move to divorce.

The whole thing is a must-read.

Who is this Andrew Cuomo? Aside from being the son of former New York governor Mario Cuomo, he is the ex-husband of Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert Kennedy.

Mr. Cuomo has political aspirations. Does this mean that one day Sandra Lee could be - gasp - first lady?!

Sandra sure likes her some older, powerful men. But couldn't she find herself some older men who are easier on the eyes? May I suggest one of these guys?

I just realized that if Sandra Lee ended up with Bill Clinton, that would be the best thing that ever happened to me. It just seems so...right. But for now, Andrew Cuomo will do.

*If she ended up with Dr. Drew, who is my favorite tv/radio personality of all time, I would retire the blog, destroy my computer, and enter a coma from which I could only be brought out by the love and care of Paula Deen. I suspect Adam Carolla would feel the same way.

**With all this talk about hookups, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my own. I must shamelessly inform all of you that I got engaged earlier this month to a man who is truly the best thing that ever happened to me. And he's no Andrew Cuomo, thank goodness (but then again, I'm no Sandra Lee)!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sandra Lee, Will You Be My Valentine?

Part 2 of 2

On this Valentine's Day, let us refrain from agonizing over the Hallmark rituals, the lame displays of "romance" and the tendency to reflect on bad Valentine's past. Instead, let us turn the spotlight on another, so as to make bearable this strange and totally unnecessary holiday.

Let's look at the love life of Sandra Lee.

During Sandra Lee's bizarre and unintentionally hilarious speaking engagement at an Oklahoma hospital, she joked about trying to kill off her ex-husband with her cooking1. I have no doubt that Sandra's dishes could fell even the healthiest human, but the question in my mind is, "What's the deal with her ex-husband? Who is this guy?"

Bruce Karatz is the CEO of KB Homes. According to this article, he's been with the company for over 30 years, rising through the ranks from house attorney. He's known for unconventional marketing and promotion gimmicks (including putting a model home at the top of a department store in Paris, as well as sumo wrestling at company events). He motorcycles and went on a bike ride with Lance Armstrong and Robin Williams. Bruce was born in 1945 and has three adult children from a previous marriage. His favorite food is "pasta with fresh tomatoes".

Sandra Lee and Bruce married in 2000. In this interview, Bruce describes how he and Sandra met:

Q: How did you meet your wife, Sandra Lee, who is on the Food Network?
A: Our spokesperson for six or seven years was Tom Skerritt, the actor on "Picket Fences." He has a face everyone knows and his dad was a homebuilder. Then I saw him do an Advil commercial. I said, "Whoa, this is not our customer. This is our customer's father or grandfather, we have to get somebody younger." So our head of marketing said they had a woman who was doing performances for us in our studios. He brought her in and I met her and several months later, our paths crossed and that started the romance. And that was it. We've been married for three years.

I'm immediately skeptical of anyone who disses Tom Skerritt. Not only is he unreasonably sexy for a 73 year old, but what other actor could pull off Strawberry from Up in Smoke as well as Viper from Top Gun?

Aside from the fightin' words about Tom, what the heck is up with the dispassionate explanation of how he and Sandra met? He might as well be talking about how he ended up with a taco salad instead of a burrito.

And what kind of "performances" do you think Sandra was doing in the studios? Hmm...

They were quite the power couple while it lasted. Sandra was one of People's 50 Most Beautiful People in 2004 and hosted one of the highest-rated shows on the Food Network at the same time that Bruce was the second-highest paid CEO in Los Angeles. There are all kinds of rumors that Sandra's success was due to her connection with such a powerful man. It'll be interesting to see if she suffers professionally from their split.

Bruce talks about bringing Sandra in as a spokesperson, but was she ever a spokesperson for KB Homes? Not that I can find. However, in October 2005 KB Homes partnered with none other than:

Snap! Oh no he di'int! For KB Homes to partner with the premier (and as far as I'm concerned, only) "lifestylist" - that's got to be a "screw you" to Sandra. In this 2005 press release, Bruce twists the knife even further:

"It is a treat for KB Home to be teaming up with Martha for Halloween. She is the ultimate authority when it comes to preparing a home for any holiday, " said KB Home Chairman and CEO Bruce Karatz.
Yow! I mean, I agree with him, but yow! Heck, even Sandra Lee agrees, sort of:
... Sandra Lee is a "New York Times" best-selling author with her own show on the Food Network. And she's joining us from our New York bureau.

Congratulations to all the praise, but I know this has to be awkward to be considered the next big thing after, perhaps, Martha is not seen as much anymore.

LAURA LEE, LIFE STYLIST: Well, I think she's still seen as the expert, and by the way, Happy Easter.

WHITFIELD: Happy easter.

LEE: She's still seen of course as an expert, but there's been many experts from Betty Crocker to, you know, Julia Childs, and there's room for everybody.
Well, at least they got her last name right.

What is next for Sandra Lee? Rumor has it that she and Gordon Elliot are sharing a penthouse in Manhattan. If she really is shacked up with the producer of Semi-Homemade Cooking, then we'll be seeing her for years to come (or at least until their relationship hits the rocks).

I'm cool with that; I enjoy watching Sandra, even if it is in a I-can't-believe-she-just-did-that kind of way. Besides, I enjoy reading other opinions of Sandra almost as much as I enjoy watching her get soused on national television. For instance:

What's the most offensive TV cooking show?

There's one [in the US] by Sandra Lee. She seems to suggest that you can make good food easily, in minutes, using Cheez Whiz and chopped-up Pringles and packaged chili mix. It inspires people to have low expectations and to settle for less, and I think that's not doing God's work.

Being a chef is God's work?

Oh, yeah. What better profession? We feed people. We nuture them. We provide a real service. We're the salt of the earth. We may be the backstairs help but we do something useful, and, once in a while, transcendent and inspiring.

Who is this taking down Sandra Lee and talking about God's work? Why, none other than Anthony Bourdain:

Speaking of God's work, this blogger compares Sandra Lee slapdash approach to cooking with Rick Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life2. This is a great analysis:

Her idea of cooking is opening a can of something processed, dumping it into a fancy dish with some “creative flourish” on top that her guests will mistake for culinary innovation. Her m├ętier is the “tablescape” where she shows you a darling, just darling, way to decorate the table. Then she goes to put on a fancy and thematically appropriate dress and she has her picture taken. Just like a tall nine year-old.

I could do without Sandra Lee.

But I cannot do without church, sadly—something in Hebrews about that.

Unfortunately for me, Sandra Lee is now behind the pulpit. She is not about feeding people good food, she is about simulating the eating experience. Sandra Lee, or rather Rick Warren, excuse me, is all about the illusion of God and theology, but done in a way that doesn’t involve knowledge, skill, love or comprehension. It is simulating the religious experience.

That's spot on. Semi-Homemade isn't about the sensual experience of cooking or even about eating itself. Sandra provides Cliff Notes for cooking. It's all style and no substance (although she doesn't even have the style part of it down most of the time).

If Semi-Homemade lacks substance and style, then why on earth would anyone watch it? The Semi-Ho Drinking Game, for one. I'll try this one out and maybe even liveblog it when I'm fully recovered from my flu.

1Sandra filed for divorce in October, but I don't know the current disposition of her marriage. Trust me, when I know, you'll be the first to know. For purposes of clarity, I will refer to Mr. Karatz as Sandra Lee's ex-husband.

2I know nothing about this book except that my fanatically religious former landlord pushed this book on me weekly for the duration of my lease.

Monday, February 06, 2006

I Pity the Flu! (ArmchairCook Succombs)

It started as a nagging cough on Thursday, then on Friday I went down with a high fever, muscle aches and just generally feeling like I was hit by a bus. That's right folks, I have the flu.

Sporadic, my ass.

Much like Sandra Lee's cooking, I'm feeling pretty half-baked right now*. I keep having fever dreams/delusions and I can even read correctly. I thought this headline:

Was "Bush aims to tame deficits with domestic cats". I was like, man, that's not going to work. There's NOTHING more apathetic than a house cat!

Good lord, it took me 45 minutes to post this**. Time to go back to bed. I hope to be back to our regularly scheduled posting later this week. Take care, and remember to wash your hands and stay away from people like me!

*Thinking about food - not just Sandra's - makes me nauseous. I haven't eaten anything other than saltines or bananas since Thursday afternoon.

** Ended up being an hour after all was said and done.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Groundhog Day: Sandra Lee Over and Over and Over

Part 1 of 2

Sometimes I feel like I beat up a little too much on Sandra Lee. Sometimes it seems like the same thing again and again and again. After all, I actually have a soft spot for Sandra! Sheesh, if that's how I treat my friends.... Perhaps I should write something nice instead. I could compliment Paula on the fine job she's done this season after a rough start. I could wax poetic about the awesome food that Giada cooks up episode after episode. Maybe I should lay off of Sandra Lee.

But then I come across something so mouth-gapingly awesome that I have to share it with my loyal readers.

As you know, there exists a lucrative side business for any celebrity in the form of public speaking. From Bill Clinton to Michael Jordan to ex-Real Worlders, celebrities get paid handsomely to speak at college graduations, conventions, and other events where the organizers need to keep people awake until the big party afterward. The Premiere Speaker's Bureau is one place to find a speaker for your function. They feature such luminaries as Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Zell Miller and Sandra Lee! One of these things is not like the other....

Sandra Lee, "internationally-acclaimed Lifestylist and New York Times bestselling author", charges the modest sum of $35,000 to speak to your group. The Premiere Speaker's Bureau even has a short video of Sandra Lee speaking at St. Anthony's Hospital's Celebrity Chef event in Oklahoma City. "Healthy living" is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Sandra Lee and the meals she prepares, but I played the video with an open mind.

Sandra starts by warming up the crowd.

"My husband had quadruple bypass surgery four years ago."

Hmm. Okay. So we know this isn't a recent video.

"It's a real honor for me to be here, because I've actually lived through a diet change."

Uh oh.

"And gone to the grocery store and tried to figure out how to make things that are heart healthy and um, um...."

Overly processed? Packed with sodium? Drenched in ketchup?

Do we really want Ms. Cheez Wiz and Cool Whip and vodka to speak to "Oklahoma's first hospital dedicated to your amazing heart & blood vessels?" I'm just sayin'.

"I try to be conscientious about what I feed my husband. When he makes me mad, I'm not so conscientious." [audience laughter] "No, really, I'm like, here, eat it!"

Sandra goes on to say that each year her husband gets a full physical at the Mayo Clinic. Oh, and her (ex-) husband is 60:

"Now, it was partially because of his diet. It was partially hereditary. And it was mostly because he smoked. So if there are any smokers in here, I beg you to please stop."*

While she's speaking, this guy walks in front of her:

And comes back with a chair.

This dude decided to leave:

"Now, what I'm going to make tonight is a wonderful herb crusted pork roast. I made this whole dish just practice for my husband last Sunday. I made him sit down and eat all of it - it's a lot of food! I'm like, yes, but you're my taster! And he did it, thank you, dear [gesturing to someone behind her]. So, I'm going to make you a pot roast and I'm going to make a wonderful mushroom gravy that's thick and it's rich and it's going to taste like it's from scratch."

Pork roast and gravy! Just the thing for all heart-conscious 60 year old men!

"Now, this is just a pork roast. To this roast, I want to take, where's my other knife [looking around for knife]. I just want this little knife here and we are slitting in this through the fat and down towards the meat...."

The video concludes at this point. I wonder what she would have done with that fatty roast.

Ominously, I do note Campbell's Soup cans on the table:

This recipe for herb pork roast and mushroom gravy was also featured on a "Low Fat" episode of Semi-Homemade Cooking. The recipe reviews indicate that the roast turned out "greasy" and "terribly greasy", while the gravy turned out "greasy" and "bland". Ah, it's good to know some things never change.

I hear that Sandra Lee is involved with lots of charity work and I think that's great. Heck, she may have even forgone the $35k fee and spoken out of sheer respect for the people who saved her husband's life. But I'm also thinking someone on the hospital board owed Sandra's ex-husband a favor. Sandra is a lot of things, but a heart-healthy cook she is not. After all, they could have asked Alton Brown! He could have found a way to integrate medical science and healthy cooking. Or even Jim Coleman, who wrote a book and about heart-healthy recipes and hosts the fantastic radio show "A Chef's Table".

Speaking of Sandra's ex, on Monday we'll examine the former Mr. Sandra Lee, Bruce Karatz. Also: Anthony Bourdain's disdain of Sandra, and a web round-up of Sandra Lee snark!

*You listening, Mom?